Jon Vickers

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Jon Vickers

Jon Vickers.jpg
Jonathan Stewart Vickers

(1926-10-29)October 29, 1926
DiedJuly 10, 2015(2015-07-10) (aged 88)
Ontario, Canada
Education The Royal Conservatory
Occupation Opera singer (tenor)
Awards Governor General's Awards

Jonathan Stewart Vickers, CC (October 29, 1926 – July 10, 2015), known professionally as Jon Vickers, was a Canadian heldentenor.

Order of Canada order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.


Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he was the sixth in a family of eight children. In 1950, he was awarded a scholarship to study opera at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1957 Vickers joined London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden company. In 1960 he joined the Metropolitan Opera. He became world-famous for a wide range of German, French and Italian roles. Vickers' huge, powerful voice and solid technique met the demands of many French, German and Italian roles. He was also highly regarded for his powerful stage presence and thoughtful characterizations. [1] (Conversely, he was sometimes criticized for "scooping"—beginning a note below pitch and then sliding up to the correct pitch—and for "crooning". [2] )

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan City in Saskatchewan, Canada

Prince Albert is the third-largest city in Saskatchewan, Canada, after Saskatoon and Regina. It is situated near the centre of the province on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The city is known as the "Gateway to the North" because it is the last major centre along the route to the resources of northern Saskatchewan. Prince Albert National Park is located 51 km (32 mi) north of the city and contains a huge wealth of lakes, forest, and wildlife. The city itself is located in a transition zone between the aspen parkland and boreal forest biomes. Prince Albert is bordered by the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert No. 461 and the Rural Municipality of Buckland No. 491.

The Royal Conservatory of Music music education organization and performance venue headquartered in Toronto, Canada

The Royal Conservatory of Music, branded as The Royal Conservatory, is a non-profit music education institution and performance venue headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1886 by Edward Fisher as The Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1947, King George VI incorporated the organization through royal charter.

Royal Opera House opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

In 1968 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Vickers received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, in 1998. [3]


Vickers studied with George Lambert at The Royal Conservatory of Music [4] and sang professionally in Canada from the early- to mid-1950s. His international career began with his 1957 Covent Garden Riccardo in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera . He continued to appear there into the 1980s, putting his personal stamp on the roles of Énée in Berlioz's Les Troyens , Radamès in Verdi's Aida and the title role in his Don Carlos , Handel's Samson , Florestan in Beethoven's Fidelio , Tristan in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde , Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci , and the title role in Britten's Peter Grimes . [5] Some critics praised Vickers' Tristan as the best since Lauritz Melchior's. [6]

George James Lambert was an English baritone and voice teacher who was primarily active in Canada.

Giuseppe Verdi 19th-century Italian opera composer

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.

<i>Un ballo in maschera</i> melodramma in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Un ballo in maschera(A Masked Ball) is an 1859 opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The text by Antonio Somma was based on Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's 1833 five act opera, Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué.

He debuted at the Bayreuth Festival in 1958 as Siegmund in Die Walküre and sang Parsifal there in 1964. [4] Later negotiations with Wieland Wagner concerning appearances as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung ceased on Wieland's death in 1966. His debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1960 was Canio in Pagliacci. [7] He appeared at the Met for 22 seasons in 280 performances of 17 roles, including Florestan in Fidelio, Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre , Don Jose in Bizet's Carmen , Radamès in Aida, Erik in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer , Herman in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades , Samson in both Handel's oratorio and Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila , the title role of Verdi's Otello , Don Alvaro in Verdi's La forza del destino , Peter Grimes, Tristan und Isolde , Laca in Janáček's Jenůfa , Vasek in Smetana's The Bartered Bride , and the title role in Wagner's Parsifal , giving his farewell in 1987. [7]

Bayreuth Festival music festival

The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. Wagner himself conceived and promoted the idea of a special festival to showcase his own works, in particular his monumental cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal.

Sigmund mythological figure

In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Völsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Völsung and his wife Hljod. Sigmund is best known as the father of Sigurð the dragon-slayer, though Sigurð's tale has almost no connections to the Völsung cycle.

<i>Die Walküre</i> opera by Richard Wagner

Die Walküre, WWV 86B is the second of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 26 June 1870, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 14 August 1876.

Among Vickers' more notable recordings were Tristan und Isolde in 1972 with Herbert von Karajan becoming one of his favourite singers at the lavish Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals in The Ring, Carmen, Otello, Fidelio as well as Tristan Les Troyens , singing the part of Énée (Aeneas), with Sir Colin Davis in 1969, [8] [9] [10] and a legendary and controversial 1959 recording of Handel's Messiah with Sir Thomas Beecham. [10] [11] [12]

The Ring may refer to:

<i>Carmen</i> opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet

Carmen is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences.

<i>Otello</i> opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.

Although scheduled to sing Tannhäuser at Covent Garden in the late 1970s, Vickers dropped out, claiming he could not empathize with the character, [13] and that the opera itself was blasphemous in nature. [5] [14] He sang Nerone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea at the Paris Opéra, and Alvaro in La forza del destino at the Met (1975). His roles also included Don Carlos, Andrea Chenier, Herod in Salome , Giasone in Medea (with Maria Callas in the title role), Pollione in Norma [10] and rarely heard parts such as Cellini in Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini , [15] Ratan-Sen in Roussel's Padmavati and Sergei in Shostakovitch's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District . [9] Many critics praised his interpretation of Verdi's Otello , [16] which he recorded twice: in 1960 with Tullio Serafin and 1973 with Herbert von Karajan. Vickers also was a long time collaborator with American pianist Richard Woitach. [17] [18]

Vickers further sang at the 'home' of Italian opera, Milan's La Scala, as well as in the major opera houses of Chicago, San Francisco, Vienna, and at the Salzburg Festival. He retired in 1988. [19]

Personal life and death

Vickers was born into the musical family of William, a teacher, and Myrle (née Mossop). As a youth he sang in his father's church, and his initial intention was to study medicine. He worked on a neighbour's farm and acquired the muscular stature that characterized him. During a semi-professional production his leading lady made a recording of his voice and sent it to The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He auditioned there with Every Valley Shall be Exalted and was offered a scholarship. [20]

In 1953 he married Henrietta (Hetti) Outerbridge. They had five children. After her death in 1991, he married Judith Stewart. [20] Vickers died of Alzheimer's disease on July 10, 2015 in Ontario. [21] [22]


He was a dedicated, outspoken Christian; one writer referred to him as "God's tenor" for this reason. [23]


Vickers' voice was recorded in dozens of performances, including: [9]

Opera recordings

and with conductor Herbert von Karajan EMI 1970.

Concert recordings

Recital recordings

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  1. "Jon Vickers, tenor – obituary". The Telegraph. July 12, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  3. "Jon Vickers biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  4. 1 2 Jon Vickers (in German) Bayreuth Festival. Retrieved July 14, 2015
  5. 1 2 "Canadian-born tenor Jon Vickers dies". Royal Opera House. July 11, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  6. Classical Music: The Listener's Companion (2002), ed. Alexander J. Morin, pp. 1038
  7. 1 2 "Remembering Jon Vickers 1926–2015". Metropolitan Opera. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  8. "Mort du ténor Jon Vickers, interprète inoubliable d'Enée et d'Otello". Le Monde (in French). July 13, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life (1999) by Jeannie Williams and Birgit Nilsson
  10. 1 2 3 Cooper, Katherine (July 13, 2015). "Obituary – Jon Vickers". Presto Classical. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  11. "Messiah". Classical Net. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  12. "Jon Vickers obituary". The Guardian. July 12, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  13. Baker, John (July 13, 2015). "Farewell to Canadian-born Tenor Jon Vickers". Texas Public Radio. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  14. Cohen, Steve (January 1, 2011). "Tannhäuser': Blasphemy or piety". Broad Street Review. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  15. Henahan, Donal (May 10, 1983). "MUSIC: BERLIOZ'S 'CELLINI'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  16. Chicago Classical Review (August 2009)
  17. Crory, Neil (June 30, 2001), "New York", Opera Canada , 42 (1), p. 34, retrieved September 9, 2013
  18. Winters, Ken (April 16, 2005), "Classical: Recital will long shine in the memory", The Globe and Mail , p. R6, retrieved September 9, 2013
  19. Tommasini, Anthony (July 12, 2015). "Jon Vickers, Opera Star Known for His Raw Power and Intensity, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  20. 1 2 Barker, Frank Granville; Blyth, Alan (July 10, 2015), "Obituaries", The Guardian , p. 35, retrieved July 14, 2015
  21. William R. Braun (July 11, 2015). "Jon Vickers, 88, Heroic Canadian Tenor, Has Died". Opera News .
  22. Anthony Tommasini (July 12, 2015). "Jon Vickers, Opera Star Known for His Raw Power and Intensity, Dies at 88". The New York Times .
  24. Performed in English, OCLC   54404309.